MS and Working from Home: Dream or Dread?

“If I told you I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at, I’d be lying, because I have no idea where I am right now.”
― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale

Working from home – isn’t that the ultimate dream? When you have an illness like MS, that dream often comes with a hard edge. Not everyone is able to be an entrepreneur, and so working from home can become a challenge.

I consider myself very fortunate that I work for an organization that is open to options like working from home, especially for people with health challenges like mine. That being said, it is not always wine and roses! But it can and does work well, and allows me to retain a standard of quality of life that I treasure.

When my MS took me to a point where I could no longer do my shift-working job, I went to day work. I was lucky – I ended up in my dream job as a “front-lines” severe weather specialist dealing with various clients. Then, when my MS developed more complications, I had to leave my dream job  and began working from home. While I have always managed to find my work interesting – I know that I had to give up a part of me by leaving that dream job behind. There’s one edge.

Working from home is not for everybody. You have to consider your personal work habits and abilities. Some questions you have to consider are:

  • Does your job allow for an option of working from home? What adaptations could be nade to allow it? (For example – if you drive a truck for a living, continuing that from home is not possible. Is there another role you could play?)
  • Does it make sense for you to work from home? Or is your health situation indicating that not working is the best option? (There are a lot of things that need to go into determining that!)
  • Do you like working alone? Or do you need regular face-to-face interaction with people?
  • Are you disciplined enough to work from home? Or do you end up getting distracted from your work by kids, pets, household chores?
  • What are the benefits of working from home for you and for your manager?
  • Do you have the space/ability to work from home? What is needed? What is your company’s policy around that?

These are just a very few of the types of questions you need to ask yourself. Each situation is unique and will need thorough research and investigation for your own personal needs.

You have to be willing to address (or ignore) strange responses – even hostile reaction from colleagues. Since beginning to work from home, I have faced questions and comments such as:

  • “Oh – you are still here! I thought you had died.”
  • “Who are you sleeping with to get such perks like working from home?”
  • “You are so lucky! I wish I had MS too if I could get to work from home!”

Wow, eh? None of it was maliciously intended…but it sure comes across negatively, eh? Another hard edge.

For me, I find it interesting that there have been so many ups and downs over the 3-4 years that I have been working almost full-time from home. I am inherently an extrovert, and I thrive in an environment where I get to interact with people directly, not just over the phone, but face to face. After my seizures began, I worked from home full time (M-F) but I found myself going a bit batty – I need interaction with people. And for professional purposes, it is always helpful for people to actually see you – otherwise you can kinda get “forgotten”. The “Outta sight, outta mind” mentality easily develops in colleagues and managers alike! I now go into the office 1-2 times per week (even though it does fatigue me greatly) in order to maintain strong professional connections and give myself that boost of interacting with people directly. (Hallway chats go a long way to help one feel connected!)

Working on your own can be a challenge for some in terms of getting work done. What I myself find is that I am actually way more productive working from home than at the office. There are fewer distractions for me, and I can focus and complete things more easily. Sometimes, if I have had a really difficult night or day, I can sleep right up to 8AM and start working the moment I wake up. If I am having a symptom flare-up, I can rest or nap, then approach my work again once rested – with a clearer head and much higher productivity: win-win for me and my manager. I have also developed a very open and honest relationship with my managers that allows for this success. (And I even get to wear my jammies all day if I wanted to!!)

Working from home is a not always a choice – but if it is an option for you, it needs significant thought and work ta actually make it successful. It needs honesty, trust, and a willingness on both sides (yours and your managers) to make it a successful arrangement. It takes teamwork.

“Working from home meant we could vary snack and coffee breaks, change our desks or view, goof off, drink on the job, even spend the day in pajamas, and often meet to gossip or share ideas. On the other hand, we bossed ourselves around, set impossible goals, and demanded longer hours than office jobs usually entail. It was the ultimate “flextime,” in that it depended on how flexible we felt each day, given deadlines, distractions, and workaholic crescendos.” ~Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing, 2011

Working from home as a health management technique can work well – you just have to find the way that is most beneficial for you.

Namaste.

Carolyne

MS Brain Fog – huh, what?

“They are able who think they are able.” ~ Virgil

“Huh? What?”

Sometimes that seems to be a phrase I say way too often.

Now – I consider myself very lucky in my MS – because, while I have some serious symptoms such as seizures, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue, I am still quite physcally able. That said, I do have cognitive issues as a result of MS that affect considerably how I live, adapt, work. For me (and many MS’ers) – MS manifests iteself in a way that is mostly invisible to the every day eye looking in from outside.

Many of us with MS experience some form of cognitive issue. The National MS Society reports the following:

In MS, certain functions are more likely to be affected than others:

  • Memory (acquiring, retaining, and retrieving new information)
  • Attention and concentration (particularly divided attention)
  • Information processing (dealing with information gathered by the five senses)
  • Executive functions (planning and prioritizing)
  • Visuospatial functions (visual perception and constructional abilities)
  • Verbal fluency (word-finding)

Certain functions are likely to remain intact:

  • General intellect 
  • Long-term (remote) memory
  • Conversational skill
  • Reading comprehension

I see the top list and find myself checking off each symptom on the list. (Check. Check. Check….Erg.) Then I get to the second part and think “Thank gawd – I still may have some basic marbles left!”

I myself am always re-evaluating, re-discovering, and re-analysing my own cognitive issues. I say “re” because short-term memory is an issue…so I often re-do things and re-discover what I knew before. Add in menopausal mayhem, middle-aging memory slumps, and multi-tasking mash-ups…and, well – you get the picture. And is there any real point to trying to figure out if it is due to the proverbial MS Chicken or menopausal Egg? Really, MS may have come first…but at this point, I think the “cause” edges may be getting increasingly blurry! (I think of the information processing issue: yes, I do definitely deal with MS repercssions of that…but as I age, I think menopausal fall-out happens too! Hormones strike again!) I just have more trouble, well, simply thinking.

Most recently, one of the things that I am finding more challenging than I expected was the challenge of associating figures to counts in the synchronized swimming world.  I have lived with the physical and cognitive repercussions from full-on grand mal seizures in the past (ie. severe concussion and associated memory loss for weeks, cracked ribs, wicked bruising, etc)  and the on-going up and down cognitive levels associated with my MS (i.e. inabiity to do basic math or remember what I am talking about mid-sentence on one day, then “geniosity” levels the next day). But I figured that simply counting to eight musically and associating routine elements would not be too problematic. Ha.

What is happening is that physically, while synchro swimming is definitely a challenge, I am able to master most elements. The biggest challenge is happening mentally – because of cognitive issues around numbers and short-term memory issues. Basically – all the symptoms from the top list is happening – blatantly and obviously. In synchro, while developing a routine there is a lot of trial and error: “Let’s try this; let’s see if this works”. This means that the need for short-term memory becomes critical. And MS can make this very difficult.

As an example – on a recent practice, we were developing another segment of the routine. Then we did a full run through. I did the entire routine just fine until we got the the newly developed part – then I totally blanked! ACK! Now, the more I practice, more and more of the routine sticks in my head. But the most recent sections always lag behind at least 1-2 weeks, memory-wise. This can be a huge frustration – not only for me, but for the people around me (especially if they do not understand why I am havng trouble remembering things). The phrase “Huh? What?” is something that I find myself saying much too often during practice!

But while it can be frustrating and challenging to push again cognitive issues – I am doing it. Do I need to adapt? Yup. In synchro, it means that  I need to do more repetition than the rest of the team. I need to repeat more things more often. I need to write things down more.

In the rest of my life, I need to take more time to fully be sure I understand. In speaking – I need cue cards because I have much more difficulty “winging it” than before. I need more and more lists for everyday things like shopping and regular daily tasks. I need frequent reminders – and I use more and more tools to do exactly that.

I seek out whatever tool and trick that I can to help with whatever new cognitive issue that pops up. And I adapt every day – because every day changes.

Um…Where was I going with this again…?

“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” -Pema Chodron

Namaste

Carolyne

And they said it would never happen!

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” ~ Orison Swett Marden

Roughly five years ago,  I had a seizure while driving and totalled my car. (Luckily only myself and my dog were hurt! See my seizure story at http://msmeans.wordpress.com/ms-seizures/ ) I was told by doctors that I would likely never drive again due to the development of uncontrolled tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. While considered a rarity in MS patients, seizures ARE a possibility and even a reality for many of us. Fast forward to the present – and now, as of the July 2013,  I am able to drive again! (Though I do have some medical restrictions that I must follow.) Through the miracle of medication and persistence at finding a balance in managing my health – I can safely get behind the wheel of a car.

FREEDOM!!!!

As any of my followers know, I don’t like being told that I cannot do something. I don’t like being labeled or hemmed into any perceived “box”. And I certainly don’t like feeling trapped in any way by my own body. And not being allowed to drive for almost 5 years certainly made me feel trapped in many ways!

But – as they say “Never say never!”

Even if I don’t drive much at all in the future, just knowing that I can drive gives me so much joy, I cannot even find the words to express it. I feel all grow’d-up an’ everything!!!

Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Pablo Picasso.

namaste

Carolyne

Menopause and More MS Mayhem

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”   ― George Bernard Shaw

swimming_cat

What a wacky couple of months it has been! From  flu angst through to menopause and MS mayhem, the waters have been a bit rough at times.

Why, you ask? Well, lemme tell ya!

Back in early April, I came down with a bad flu, running fevers for a week straight recurrently. Being the  over-achieving driven person that I am, I figured that as long as I was not comatose, I could continue to work since I work primarily from home…but I would concede that swimming should be taken off my plate for a short while until my lungs came back. You see, one of the down sides of working from home is that even when you are really sick, you just don’t rest enough!!! So I proceeded to try to keep up, when I should have been shutting down and letting my body heal. I proceeded instead to get sicker, develop lung infections along with sinus infections and the fevers. Then this apparently triggered what they called an estrogen crisis. (I seem to have a penchant for learning the hard way.)

I had never heard of this estrogen crisis thing before. What it meant for me was that I had all of a sudden gone into “hot flash hyperdrive”…literally dripping and crying and weeping and dripping, with hot flashes every 3-5 minutes round the clock. Seriously, folks…I thought I was going absolutely MS nuts!! I even wore this funky necklace I found online (Hot girl pearls) for when I needed to be cool the most…and I looked like I had borrowed Wilma Flinstone’s necklace!! But continual dripping in a board meeting or during presentations was just not appealing.

See that cat in the pic above? That is how I felt and looked the past number of weeks. Sad. Wet. Out of her element.

When by June my hot flashes got even worse, keeping me from sleeping, keeping me on the weepy side, and threatening my seizure control, …I saw the doc on the advice of friends who assured me that what I was experiencing was far from normal. He prescribed Gabapentin to stop the “heat”, as he put it. Within 2 days, the difference was noticeable to me and all those around me. I was sleeping, my hotflashes reduced from 15 per hour to 2-3…and I felt like “me” again. Not only did it help the hot flashes, but it helped the restless legs and pain, so that I actually got quality sleep for the first time in months.

Whew. My mental marbles were still intact!

Fast forward 2 weeks…and my body went in full rejection mode on the gabapentin. I ended up in emergency with my legs swollen twice their usual size, and being tested for blood clots or cardiac issues!!! Now, only 2% of people usually have such side effects to that med according to medical stats – but as we know, when it comes to the medical side effect lottery…I always seem to “win”. So I started off my summer vacation in the emergency room, then spent the next 3 days in full “withdrawal” from the med because they wanted me off cold turkey. (Thankfully my  seizure meds “covered” for me in the chance of such a withdrawal triggering a seizure.)

On the plus side, the hot flashes are not back…and I am still sleeping well. So a switch may have been flipped “back” to the “normal” position! Is that typical? I dunno. Is that due to MS? My doc says “I dunno”. Yay for happy mysteries! As my doc says: “You are a very complex woman!” He doesn’t know the half of it.

In the meantime, I did manage to get back in the water, and even perform my first synchronized swimming duet for the spring season year-end close. (I would show you that…but my hubby’s technical difficulties with the camera ky-boshed that option. Not to fear! There will be more performing and competing to come however, and we will overcome our technical troubles!)

I am starting to look into how and/or if MS and menopause interact in women. I always have been my own case-study, eh?

As we head into summer…I offer this: Stay hydrated, stay cool. Swim. Walk. Have fun. Find your passion. And go with the flow when you can!

“Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.”
― Sara Gruen

Namaste.

Carolyne

Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Ghosts We Fear to Discuss

The moment in which the mind acknowledges ‘This isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got’ is the point at which suffering disappears. Sylvia Boorstein, Happiness is an Inside Job

Did you know that today, February 12th, is mental Health Awareness day? It’s a day for talking about what most of society wouldn’t talk about in the past. The stigma is HUGE.

Well, by now most of you know how I feel about stigma!

Depression is one of the “side effects” of a chronic illness, like MS… a struggle with maintaining good mental health. Personally, I call my own struggle as a struggle with the Ghosts of Lifetime Past. Let me explain…

What I have noticed over time for myself is that as my MS has progressed, so has my own awareness and understanding of myself – but in ways I never could have seen coming. For example, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a fact of life for me now…for various reasons and at various levels of complexity. When my symptoms of fatigue and pain pull me down, I tend to feel like a burden to family and friends. (Rationality has nothing to do with it!) I then can tend to feel depressed and even more emotionally exhausted…and I want nothing more than to “escape” from this burdensome-ness by disappearing somewhere, anywhere. I understand now that this comes from past emotional trauma from a very young age in which I was the oldest child of an alcoholic parent who would insist that our entire family would end up living on the streets without a home nor food and in rags if I, as oldest child, did not “shape up, do more to take care of the house, and be more responsible for my siblings“. I was 8 years old when that particular burden began being laid on me regularly. (This typical “burdening of the oldest child” usually came after my parents fought over my father’s alcoholism and my mother was ready to kick him to the curb.) So for me – I can begin a cycle of feeling very depressed when my symptoms flare up and create change or havoc in my life. I feel like I am failing at keeping the family together, happy, fed, successful. These are literally ghosts of my past – being exacerbated by symptoms of illness in my present.

But – Why do I understand it now? Because I talk about it. Because I look into myself. Because I seek self-awareness everyday.

The thing is – everyone has old ghosts. And chronic illness can raise these ghosts in the strangest ways and at the strangest times. It can create new ghosts. The changes brought into our lives by chronic illness can also make us go into hiding as we avoid talking about painful emotions, fears…depression.

If you are feeling depressed – talk about it. Now. Tomorrow. With a friend, relative, professional…with whomever you feel most safe. Just talk about it.

Namaste

Carolyne

Allowing for Personal Renewal in 2013!

“I can hardly wait for tomorrow, it means a new life for me each and every day.” ~ Stanley Kunitz

Image Source: http://breastcancerpartner.com/blog/uncategorized/renewal-spring-is-here/

Image Source: breastcancerpartner.com/blog/

As 2012 came to an end, some sighed in relief that the world did not come to the prophetic end. Some did not have any clue that 2012 was supposedly an “end” to anything. Most of the world simply went on living life as usual.

Everyone has their own individual experience with the past year (2012) so I am not going to do any kind of run-down of 2012 events. We all can do that on a deeply personal level. Look back at 2012 and recognize the blessings there. Recognize the challenges and subsequent learning opportunities. Recognize the achievements and appreciate the moments of joy. Be grateful for what 2012 brought to your life, big or small. Then, let go of 2012 and move on to a sparkly shiny new 2013.

The year 2013 for me will be another year of change and goal setting. Here are a couple of my personal goals for 2013:

  1. Get into optimum training form. To do so, I will kick up my synchronized swimming training efforts a notch to make my goal of competing by  my 50th birthday in spring of 2014 a reality. (I have already begun this one by joining a local gym with my hubby and beginning a training regimen tailored to my injuries and medical adjustments and my goal of competing. This should complement my weekly synchro swim training sessions well! ) 
  2. Keep on top of my health management by ensuring I maintain a healthy diet and manage my fatigue properly. To do so, I will follow a healthy diet with as much raw foods as possible. I will not over-extend my energy limits to the point of exhaustion. I will schedule in more relaxation yoga and meditation.

The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one. -Elbert Hubbard

The training goal is the tough one physically. While there is definitely excitement to be back in the water and training competitively in synchronized swimming, I battle frequently with a little niggling fear in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, I have bitten of more than I can chew this time. Little ghosts of thoughts cross my mind, such as: Will my body be able to handle this? Am I crazy? Am I too old? Am I too “disabled”? Does it stop me? Heck no. But it does keep me on my toes and AWARE of myself and my own qualms.

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. -J. Pierpont Morgan

The health management goal is the toughest one. That’s the one where I have to really fight myself to keep…because I can so easily slide into bad eating habits or push myself to  work too much when I am over-tired. When I am fatigued is also when my brain does not seem to function at its best, and I have been known to make really weird decisions in terms of best choices at the times. (I believe my sister often uses the phrase “OMG – Do you need a brick to hit you in the head every time to get you to finally rest???” ) Trying to get a Type-A person to recognize when she is in full Type-A throttle and to scale back can be quite a challenge at the best of times!

So – do I expect to be perfect this year in reaching my goals and resolutions? Heck no. But I will have fun on the path!

OUR GREATEST GLORY IS NOT IN NEVER FAILING, BUT IN RISING EVERY TIME WE FALL. -CONFUCIUS

Have fun on your own 2013 journey!

Namaste.

Carolyne

Health Management still applies during the Festive Season

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. ~ Buddha

We are in the midst of the holiday season festivities. This is a happy, busy and tiring time for many. It can also be a lonely time for some. Both ends require efforts to management of health.

When dealing with a chronic illness, there a more challenges afoot: trying to maximize your ability to meet social and family commitments while minimizing the drain on your energy and any impact to your health. Impacts that come not just from the demands on time and energy, but also the changes in diet and drink consumption. (Those mince meat tarts of auntie’s are to die for…oh and the cookies, cakes, hor d’ouevres, tourtieres,…oh my! What do you mean this is not the way to eat every day? Oh…my head…how many glasses of wine did you say?)  We eat differently, don’t sleep the way we normally do, and push our bodies to meet social and family functions. While all this can be fun…we need to pace ourselves and keep our health management need very clearly in mind. Because pay back is a Bi**h!

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukka’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukka!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ ~ Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping

So, from me and mine to you and yours: Happy Holidays! Happy Hannuka! Happy whatever! (And look out for the wall…)

Oh – and congrats on surviving the end of the world prophecies! ;)

Namaste

Carolyne

Try, Try, Try. Period.

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But, by all means keep moving.” ~Martin Luther King Jr

Sometimes it takes digging deep – really deep – to keep getting back up and trying. Has anyone else noticed that?

I have been going through an exacerbation of my MS symptoms, with old symptoms returning with a vengeance. To complicate matters, my peri-menopausal flare-ups are adding new symptoms that I am trying to wrap my head around, as well. Combine the two – and well, we have a pretty fatigued and worn-out Carolyne on hand.

Last week was a particularly busy week at work, and I had to be on-site at the main office for most of the week. My MS symptoms were flaring pretty badly before the week had even started, with MS Hug episodes taking my sparkle down to a dull “splat”. Then, the 2nd day into the busy week I was hit by what I am now calling the dreaded peri-menopausal period. My fatigue and pain got so bad that one of the days I actually left the room full of people I needed to be with, headed to my office, shut the door, and lay there doing the yoga “legs up the wall” pose for 20 minutes…just breathing and trying to meditate to reduce the pain and fatigue and brain fog. (I think someone may have come into my office during that time…but left when they saw how busy I was!)

My synchro swimming was also affected in that my coach could tell right away that something was not right. She could see my fatigue and my balance was way, WAY off.

SO…this peri-menopausal period stuff seems to be becoming quite the deal-breaker for me lately. Cramps worse than when I was a teen. Fatigue like a sledge hammer. Brain fog galor.  Is this normal for someone with MS, or for anyone?? I really don’t know. Doctors don’t like to say anything for sure, though some websites do mention that hormonal changes can affect MS symtoms. I am here to say that when my period comes these days, it is like I have been hit with the Fatigue Hammer of the Gods! Holy crap! I can’t think straight; my pain levels skyrocket; and my fatigue takes me down to the ground. So…seeing as I am my own science experiment…I would say that my observations are telling me that my peri-menopausal menses and symptoms are prone to exacerbating my MS symptoms greatly. And I don’t like it!!!

But – no matter what, crushing pain or no, I have a family to take care of…so I gotta push through the pain, fatigue and brain fog and just keep tryin’. When I came across the song and video by Pink, it resonated with me…and to me, it inspires the will we need to keep trying.

“But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try”
~Pink

So that’s what’s been going on with me. I am getting up. I am trying. Period.

So what’s going on with you?

Namaste.

Carolyne

The Button and Identity

“An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” ~ James Baldwin

Can a chronic illness like MS affect your identity? You betcha! You see, personal identity (our sense of self) tends not to be an unchanging concrete thing. It tends more to be a dynamic concept that  fluctuates with life experience.

Our sense of self includes anything such as life/professional roles, personal attributes, behaviors, and aspects that we consider most important about ourselves. The aspects that contribute to our self identities can be things like occupation, hobbies, athletic ability, family relationships, marital status, disabilities and health…among many others.

My own identity can be shaken at times by the twists and turns of my health due to multiple sclerosis and seizures. And often, the symbol of that comes in the form of a button…a remote button I wear around my neck so that if I fall or drop due to a seizure, emergency personnel will be called and sent directly to me, even if I am unconscious. I have a love/hate relationship with that button. It is because of the button that I can be alone and maintain my independence. It is because of my health condition that I need the button – so when my health is at a lower ebb, and I have to wear and count on that button – it becomes a symbol of my dependence and a perception of freedoms lost.

In the last few weeks, as a result of the overwhelmingly busy schedule I have been keeping with workload, travel, wedding, moving, packing, unpacking, and so on… I have ended up dealing with a deeper MS exacerbation physically than I have in a while. My muscles are weaker than normal, exacerbating my spinal injury, triggering more weakness, and so on. As a result, in order to ensure my safety, it has been important for me to wear my button “just in case”. This “just in case” part is primarily because we don’t know if a seizure will be triggered or not. I end up feeling “less than” because I need to slow down. I know – it is not logical…but it happens sometimes. (That’s where a good support system helps!)

That’s where identity comes in, because when you can’t do what you are normally accustomed to do, it can affect your sense of self. Sometimes we can feel a sense of guilt for being unable to participate at a certain level. Or we can feel isolated. It is imperative to remember, at that time, that we are not just one thing (i.e. wht we do, or how we do it, or…). We need to ensure that we don’t allow what we can’t do in one moment to impact our sense of identity in any moment. And it can be easier said than done, depending on our own personal sense of self.

Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem. ~ Eric Hoffer

Now where did I leave that darned button?

Namaste

Carolyne

Forging New Ground and Setting Goals

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Well, I am back! Didja miss me?

I took some time off from my busy-ness to rest for the past few weeks over the summer, as the heat was taking a toll on my health by flaring up MS symptoms (even my old one of MS Hugs – not fun). The rest was well worth it – mentally, physically and emotionally – though I can’t really say I was not busy!

The busy-ness seemed to morph somewhat, rather than disappear. Isn’t it amazing how you can take something of you to-do list, and other things magically appear to take the place of the things you removed! Case in point: My upcoming next month or so I will hopefully be moving into a new home that we offered on, getting married, working full-time and balancing life while working on some large projects at the office, and also trying to forge some new ground.

What do I mean “forge some new ground”? Well…Having the time to “rest’ (HAHAHAHAH!) allowed me to look inside and prioritize what I needed to manage most – including wrapping up old issues that I had pushed to the back-burner to “deal with” later. One of those issues was my fear of getting back in the water…fear created by my history of seizures.

You see, sometimes living with chronic illness can feel emotionally like someone is slowly chipping away at you – who you are, what you can do, what freedoms you can still enjoy, and so on. For me, the seizures came with a fear of being in the water…because that is a very risky place to be during a seizure. I had stopped taking baths (don’t worry – I do shower :); I had stopped my competitive swimming (mainly because of the virtigo); I had given in my driver’s liscense which effectively reduced my freedom. And I felt like a vital piece of me had been suffocated by my seizure disorder with all these little pieces going down. Combine that with the stigma against seizures that I experiences in the spring…well, if any of you follow me regularly, you know that that is a trigger for me to “Face the Fear” and make a change.

So – what did I do? I set myself a  big goal and a cause: I will be swimming competitively again by my 50th birthday and raising awareness of stigma against Seizure Disorders.

I have joined the local Masters Synchronized Swimming team. I have roughly  2 years until I turn 50 (fifty) years old – and I plan to be in the water, doing a synchronized swimming routine competitively, and showing people that no matter what, seizures or no – it CAN be done. (And – also to show that being 50 years old or over does not means everthing stops…one can still be at the top of their game. Though maybe the games rules are a bit different?)

Facing my first fear was to get back in the water. And I did! I got back in, and my ol’ body remembered how to do the synchro figures – though I gotta say, my “ballast” feels alot different than when I was 17 years old and competing! I completed my first 90 minute training with no problems (other than recognizing that I haven’t used certain muscles in a LONG time…and I have a lot of work to do! Thank God for yoga – it will be my rock for this in many ways – including core and flexibility!)

How do I feel after my first session in the water? Physically – exhausted! But emotionally and mentally? Fantastic. Determined. Courageous. Powerful. I faced a fear – the fear of getting back in the water – and did it anyway!

Does it cure my MS or my seizures? Heck no! But it does increase my confidence in my own ability to create and live my life in the way I see fit, no matter what my illness throws at me!

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.”~ Bill Cosby
So – what’s your goal? Is it big? Small? It really doesn’t matter – it just needs to fit YOU! (Size is just a matter of perspective, anyway, ain’t it?)
Namaste
Carolyne